Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Here's the deal:

  • Life is really all about love.

  • I'm not just saying that because I'm a father of a newborn baby;

  • I'm saying that because as a teacher and as a therapist

  • I've seen people basically choose between two things:

  • love or something else.

  • What I've witnessed and experienced is this:

  • When people choose love,

  • they always choose right.

  • I was asked to speak today on the topic of illumination,

  • and it made me think about the way the light inside us all can shine.

  • My favorite way is through our love

  • which can illuminate in our relationships.

  • The most important relationship that we'll ever have,

  • is the relationship that we have with ourselves.

  • And next comes the relationships that we share with one another.

  • As simply as I can put it,

  • we are here, on this very Earth, to love and to be loved -

  • and love is light.

  • In a second, what I'd like to do with you today,

  • is a brief, relaxing, guided-imagery exercise,

  • where I'm going to have you close your eyes and consider

  • three expressions of light that can return us to love.

  • I'm going to have you close your eyes and consider three items,

  • and then associate each item with a person in your life.

  • So, let's get ready.

  • Can I ask you to put your feet flat on the floor,

  • palms facing up in your lap,

  • and when you're ready,

  • gently allow your upper eyelids to meet your lower eyelashes.

  • Close your eyes and let's everyone take a deep breath.

  • Relax your shoulders.

  • The first item I'd like you to picture is the sun.

  • Picture the sun in the big, blue sky, feel the warmth of her rays,

  • and consider how the sun continues to show up every day,

  • sharing its light and energy unconditionally,

  • even on a cold February morning.

  • Is there somebody in your life that reminds you of the sun?

  • Somebody that loves you unconditionally?

  • Picture that person now and feel their love.

  • The next item I'd like you to picture is a lighthouse.

  • See the light emanating from the top of the structure

  • at the ocean's edge where the sea meets the land,

  • and remember its primary purpose:

  • To help guide sailors and boaters home.

  • Is there somebody in your life that helps guide you home?

  • To your authentic self?

  • To the truth of who you are?

  • To the person that you're meant to be?

  • To the path that you're meant to be on?

  • Picture that person now

  • and consider the direction that they're encouraging you to head in.

  • The last item I'd like you to picture is a disco ball.

  • See the light bouncing off of it,

  • think of the energy in the room where you might find this unique object,

  • maybe you hear your favorite song playing.

  • Is there somebody in your life that reminds you of a disco ball?

  • Somebody that shows up with the fun, loving energy

  • wherever they are, wherever they go?

  • Picture that person now

  • and consider how they are encouraging you to live and love.

  • Gently float open your eyes.

  • Today I'd like to share a story with you about a student of mine.

  • His name was Daniel.

  • I met Daniel the very first year I was a classroom teacher.

  • I had no experience as a theology teacher in an all-boys prep school,

  • and somehow this little guy, this 103-pound wrestler,

  • he became more of a teacher to me than a student,

  • because he showed me and everybody in the school building

  • how to shine their love and their light

  • by being an example of how it's done.

  • You see, the same year that I met this little guy

  • was the same year that I was cut from the NFL.

  • Felt like a little bit of my light had been taken from me

  • when the Baltimore Ravens told me I can no longer be their quarterback.

  • I had trained with them all summer, I felt like a kid in Disney,

  • I was playing and competing with some of my childhood heroes

  • in stadiums that I had only visited as a fan.

  • Playing in the NFL was an incredible experience,

  • but at the end of the summer,

  • a week before our first game, on the last day of cuts,

  • I was released.

  • I had to return home to New Jersey to figure out a new career.

  • I had graduated from Georgetown University

  • with the degree in psychology, so I guessed I could teach that,

  • but I was hired at an all-boys prep school

  • to coach football and teach theology.

  • It was kind of like a life course for the incoming freshmen.

  • Gave me the opportunity to teach the guys

  • the importance of being kind, caring and thoughtful.

  • It really healed my broken heart.

  • I loved teaching as much as I loved playing football.

  • And that's where I met Daniel.

  • He came into my classroom like a little disco ball.

  • He had an energy and a light about him that everybody wanted to be around.

  • Daniel connected with everybody in the school.

  • I used to love watching him walk the hallways.

  • His smile was reflected back to him in every corner.

  • Athletes, band guys, cool guys, smart guys,

  • teachers and coaches,

  • all felt the love of this pint-sized, 103-pound wrestler.

  • People loved Daniel because he was free.

  • He was free to be himself,

  • and most of us know how difficult that can be.

  • I remember when Daniel found out it was my birthday

  • during his freshman year.

  • He took it upon himself to create a homemade birthday card for me.

  • He even taped a Starburst candy and a pack of Wrigley's gum to the inside.

  • He presented it to me in front of the class.

  • Daniel was redefining cool,

  • and he made it cool to be thoughtful, caring and kind,

  • and his classmates loved him for it.

  • It was in this way that our brotherly bond began.

  • And it was during his sophomore year

  • that Daniel started to campaign for me to date his older cousin Lia,

  • so that we could officially be family.

  • (Laughter)

  • He even brought her to a wrestling match one weekend.

  • I was only there with about one other person,

  • and Daniel had about 15 relatives cheering him on that night.

  • It was a beautiful night.

  • Then Daniel came into school the following Monday,

  • and he was mad.

  • He said, "Mr. Ward, you brought your girlfriend to my wrestling match,

  • when I brought my cousin to introduce you?"

  • (Laughter)

  • I said, "Wow, Daniel, hold on a second!

  • That girl happens to be my younger sister,

  • (Laughter)

  • and, second of all,

  • I didn't know you were trying to play matchmaker that night."

  • It felt like a real compliment to my teachings.

  • My message of love and be loved was really making an impact.

  • For years, I've been practicing

  • shouting commands for the NFL football field,

  • but I had been practicing another message all along.

  • I was never the type of football player that was overly aggressive or tough.

  • I never yelled at my teammates,

  • and I never yell at my students in the classroom.

  • Some people say this may make people walk all over you,

  • but I believe otherwise.

  • An older teacher once told me, when I first began teaching,

  • that I shouldn't smile in the classroom until after a few months have gone by.

  • (Laughter)

  • I guess the theory is that the students would think I was tough,

  • but I love to smile,

  • and I have a different theory.

  • I believe that the toughest guy in the room

  • is not the football guy;

  • it's the loving guy.

  • It's the most manly thing that can ever be accomplished.

  • It's not that difficult to do,

  • but it requires great thought and courage.

  • I loved football because I thought it was one of the finest team sports.

  • When we're on the field,

  • playing together, relating as teammates,

  • defending each other, protecting each other,

  • doing a little dance in the end zone to celebrate the points we score -

  • Football was really about relationships.

  • And so is love.

  • Love is a team sport.

  • A team that we are all a part of.

  • And on this team, Daniel is an all-star.

  • But Daniel never had the glory of an end zone dance,

  • or even a dance at his junior prom.

  • And that's because his life extinguished way too early.

  • One night, during Daniel's junior year,

  • in February,

  • he was rolling up the mats with his wrestling buddies,

  • and he collapsed in pain.

  • Daniel suffered an aortic aneurysm,

  • and he died early the next morning in hospital.

  • It was tragic.

  • The date was February 7th, 2002.

  • Exactly 12 years ago today.

  • I don't think it's any coincidence that I'm here today with the opportunity

  • to share Daniel's story with you.

  • Daniel is my lighthouse.

  • When the water is dark and dangerous,

  • the lighthouse can provide a warm and inviting light,

  • almost as if to say, this way home.

  • Daniel brought me home literally by bringing me to his home.

  • The night after he died, I visited his family,

  • along with the number of other teachers from our school.

  • We were all greeted by Daniel's cousin Lia,

  • who thanked us for being there during such a devastating time.

  • I introduced myself as Daniel's theology teacher,

  • and she replied,

  • "Oh, you're the one that Daniel wanted me to marry!"

  • (Laughter)

  • It was kind of like a light went on.

  • I ended up sitting with Lia and her mom,

  • sharing stories of Daniel and looking at pictures.

  • It was a really difficult time for us both,

  • but it hard for me not to notice

  • that Lia had the same passion and energy for life

  • that I saw in Daniel.

  • I wish he could have seen us meet.

  • Riding home that night, I quietly recalled my last moment with Daniel.

  • He was visiting my class.

  • And like many times before,

  • Daniel would just stroll right in.

  • And because I was sitting behind the desk, he came over to me,

  • and we're about the same height,

  • and our shoulders bumped into each other as we talked.

  • I introduced him to the class

  • as the 103-pound wrestler who was having a great season,

  • and the younger guys just looked at him in awe.

  • Here was this guy, smaller than most of them,

  • but he carried so much weight and loving energy.

  • On his way out of the classroom that morning,

  • Daniel turned over his shoulder in his cool little way and said,

  • "See you around, Mr. Ward."

  • Daniel died early the next morning.

  • Couple of weeks later, I thought I saw Daniel at school.

  • The student was sitting with [his] back to me,

  • and it looked like Daniel.

  • And for a moment I believed that it was him.

  • But soon the student stood, and it obviously wasn't Daniel.

  • But to me the message was clear.

  • The same love and light

  • that I witnessed and experienced in Daniel,

  • could be found in everyone and everything.

  • So I began to look for Daniel,

  • to look for love in everyone and everything,

  • and at the crucial point in my life, even in myself.

  • Daniel was right when he said, "See you around."

  • Because the same love in him is within us all.

  • Just as I tell my students back at school,

  • there is so much goodness in you,

  • and you are all, each and everyone of you,

  • worthy of love and belonging,

  • just as you are, imperfectly perfect.

  • And once you begin open yourself to love,

  • you will learn to see it everywhere,

  • creating a peace, a freedom and a truth

  • that will shift your overall, entire experience.

  • Think about it.

  • If I stand right here and I shift just a little bit,

  • my view changes entirely.

  • The same is true for love.

  • If we can begin to make an effort

  • to love and be loved without any conditions,

  • we will bring a whole new level of meaning

  • to our relationships and to our experience.

  • I'm going to ask you to close your eyes one more time.

  • Picture the sun.

  • Author Anthony de Mello writes:

  • "Has the Sun ever said to the Earth: you owe me.

  • Look what happens to a love like that. It lights up the whole sky."

  • Is there somebody in your life that can use a little unconditional love?

  • Picture that person now.

  • Remember the lighthouse.